Dino for you and dino for me

A turkey relative eating one of our own ancestors 80 million years ago. Makes you think!

Behold the roast turkey jammed with stuffing, or better yet deep-fried in one big sleek pot fired up and humming like a jet turbine on full afterburner. Smoked is good too! And it’s a great choice for a feast, the turkey has an illustrious history. In fact, Ben Franklin felt one humble member of genus Meleagris deserved wider recognition:

For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

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New scale for alien life proposed by astrobiologists

On a simmering ocean world, under an oversized blue-white star, the tendrils of one Qax reach out to the limb of another in the distance.

With over 700 exo-solar planets and counting, the infant intersection between astronomy and biology grew a new two-tiered rating system intended to identify worlds of interest. The first tier is obvious: earth-like worlds in mass and temperature, where water is a liquid (And pizza is not a vegetable). But the other set is less familiar: [Read more…]

Simulation shows a crowded early solar system

Artist's impression of a planet ejected from the early solar system. CREDIT: Southwest Research Institute

Hot Jupiter’s, possible water worlds or gas dwarfs, even one planet that could have a mantle of diamond, exo-solar planets remind us that the universe can still harbor secrets. In the last decade or two, as the number of strange exo-planetary denizens grew, it became clear that some must have migrated. Moved closer, or shot away, from their primary star. The early history of our own solar system, how the planets formed and ended up in the relatively stable configuration we see today, can be studied with the same techniques developed and refined to model those alien systems. One of the simulations that best explains the familiar worlds we know huddling around the sun comes with an extra planet, or maybe two: [Read more…]

Black rhino officially extinct

The black rhino, now officially extinct in the wild, thanks to poaching and habitat destruction

There’s a great deal of healthy debate over the role humans played in the extinction of megafauna at the end of the Pleistocene. But there’s no doubt about what, or rather who, knocked off one of the lucky survivors of that period. The Black Rhino survived wave after wave of ice sheets and bands of clever, hungry hominids. They will not survive the superstitions and greed of modern man: [Read more…]

Huge storm with superficial exo-tropical features bearing down on Alaska

The National Weather Service is issuing a severe winter storm watch for parts of Alaska and Canada as a powerful storm sweeps in from the west carrying lots of snow and ice driven by near hurricane force winds. The system is currently off Alaska’s west coast and looks almost like the crazy cyclonic winter-canes on that miserably terrible movie The Day After Tomorrow. It’s not though, these kinds of eddies and extra tropical cyclone looking swirls happen all the time. This one just happened to be well defined when that sat photo was snapped. At least that’s what my climate expert pals are telling me.

Asteroid gazing on the web

Path for 2005 YU55, times shown are Greenwich Mean Time. Subtract 6 hours to get Central Time in the US

When YU55 rolls past closest approach to earth this evening, a comfortable 200,000 miles away thank goodness, you won’t be able to see it with your unaided eye or even a small telescope. It would take a decent sized amateur scope just to see the little starlike point moving from west to east toward the constellation Pegasus in the hours before and after 6:28 PM EDT. But NASA has set up two websites that will have excellent viewing! [Read more…]